Rogue One: A Netflix Review

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ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is a stand-alone STAR WARS movie that practically the whole world has seen by now, and even more are on NETFLIX.  Just look at the box office numbers from December 2016 onward!  Anyways, ROGUE ONE is a very worthy and engaging STAR WARS story that is considered canon and is a major hit for being a different type of film than we usually see in the STAR WARS Universe, outside of the Skywalker Episodic Saga: a war story and suicide mission.

ROGUE ONE feels at once personal and epic, like the best STAR WARS movies do.  Instead of optimism and joy, ROGUE ONE ups the tone on tragedy, necessity, high-stakes survival, dire straits and death for the STAR WARS universe.

The action is unbelievably epic and bar-raising for cinema in general.  The special effects are bar-none amazing and very believable.  Industrial Light and Magic keep delivering on changing and growing their special effects skills and their standards and scope is hard to match, just like WETA Digital.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, Mads Mikkelsen as her father Galen Erso, fan favorite actors Alan Tudyk as rogue and witty Imperial droid K-2SO and Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, Donnie Yen as a skilled Jedi follower Chirrut Inwe, Forest Whitaker as the extremist rebel leader Saw Guerrera, and Ben Mendelsohn as the evil Orson Krennic all bring their A-game to this STAR WARS stand-alone war tale.

We all know the story, the action, the tragedy and the characters all…well, you know.  Don’t forget THAT epic Darth Vader lightsaber scene…instant classic, IMO!

IF you haven’t seen Rogue One, what are you waiting for???  It’s on Netflix, go see for yourself what the good fuss is all about!  And buy it too, if you haven’t already!

If you’re interested, here’s a helpful link for ya:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MXLWO5D

 

If you liked this review, follow me on Twitter at @garankin5 and I look forward to having you on board at Rankin’ Movies by Garrett Rankin!

 

 

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The Mummy (2017 Review): A Good But Not Great Action and Scare Spectacle

0b940e31ab11e647f25767d310e91fcbThis is not your Brendan Fraser’s Mummy, for better and worse.  Instead, Universal Pictures is hopping on the bandwagon for creating a filmic universe (a la Marvel and DC) called the Dark Universe.  It sure is dark, as is preluded in the 2017 Mummy.  With Alex Kurtzmann directing and Roberto Orci and the producers (Sean Daniels Company) of the original Mummy trilogy, THE MUMMY is a intensely action-packed and surprisingly scary reboot for the series.

THE MUMMY (2017) is the kind of film that knows how to entertain, play with audience’s expectations with familiar characters (played by Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella) that bring new aspects and angles to the archetypes/characters of Henry Jekyll/Eddie Hyde and a female mummy called Ahmanet, no less menacing if not more so than Arnold Vosloo’s Imhotep from THE MUMMY (1999) and THE MUMMY RETURNS (2001).

The story and tone is darker and creepier than the original Mummy trilogy, yet engaging on a visceral level and on a level of fun as well.  THE MUMMY does have its fair share of seriousness, but it’s also funny and silly when it needs to be thanks to Jake Johnson’s side-kick performance and occasionally self-aware jabs at certain scenes in the film.

Tom Cruise is an interesting choice for the lead character, a very Tom Cruise-esque character Nick Morton whose vanity and search for adventure and gold gets the better of him time and time again.  I think he was an alright choice, just because of his star power and action chops.  His acting is decent here, but it’s not ground-breaking.  I think someone up-and-coming with a new take on the hero archetype would have been more welcome than Tom Cruise’s presence, honestly.  He’s already Ethan Hunt in the MI series and still in many movies already, I think it’s just Hollywood indulgence how and why he’s the star of the Mummy.

I enjoyed the action scenes and the chase sequences involving Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton and the heroine Jenny Halsey, played by Annabelle Willis and usually the creepy and menacing Mummy Ahmanet.  Mummies as zombie-like creatures are an interesting twist for the Mummy series.  Not to mention those scary nightmare sequences feel very dream-like and bring out the cursed nature of Tom Cruise’s Nick.  And Russell Crowe’s Henry character is a provider of helpful exposition, and also story twists and more.

All in all, THE MUMMY (2017) is not an essential 2017 film, but it is a fun, creepy, enjoyable time at the movies, especially for long-time Mummy fans and for people into the famous Universal Pictures monsters pantheon.

If you like this review, follow me on Twitter at @garankin5 and I look forward to having you on board at Rankin’ Movies by Garrett Rankin, only on WordPress!

Alice Through the Looking Glass Review

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Hey guys, this is Rankin Movies reporting for duty.  New year, new you and everything else too!  So, I just finished watching ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and it was a much better, cohesive and surprisingly emotional adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s second fantastical story in his Alice novels.  Not without its flaws, of which there are a number,  but that number is far more minuscule than you might like to think.

First off, the film is outright and boisterously gorgeous without overwhelming the story or the characters with the familiar and fun actors who play them.  The visuals provided on display are much improved from 2010’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, with a squeaky but also honest sheen and tone to each provided stage of the story.  Everything in place is as it should be, one thing you may see for yourself in time.  Time, in fact, is a major theme in the Alice novels as well as the story in THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.  Time is also a major player in the story, too, played with relish by Sacha Baren Cohen.

Now that we’re talking cast, Mia Wasikowska returns strong as ever as Alice Kingsleigh, Johnny Depp plays up the quirks and is the heart and soul of the movie as the “Mad” Hatter Hightopp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham-Carter return as the at-odds sisters and queens who have a history that may be revisited, Alan Rickman voices his last performance as the butterfly Absolem, and a very unexpectedly charming cast of colorful yet relatable characters.  I’m not a fan of spoilers, so I will say time, family, and love are themes in the story all deftly and wonderfully explored by the script and by director James Bobin (THE MUPPETS) who takes over the reins from Tim Burton, and excels in blending the combination of fantastic visuals, wacky weirdness, amazing eye in detail for costumes and sets and solid acting; and with a strong lead in Wasikowska (having grown a lot in acting shoes since 2010) also plays Alice as a headstrong, feminist (without going overboard, lol) and independent young lady knows her limits (at first) but uses her strengths for goodness sake (and for her friends sake too).

Now, to the number of flaws or perhaps gripes.  As an optimist, it’s usually hard for me to find flaws, because I usually look for what’s right in a film instead of what’s wrong (just like in my life as I live it).  Yet time goes on and change is demanded of us all, so a critical eye I have developed over time that has passed and I will say that the computer generated animation does tend to overwhelm and the music swells on a regular basis, which may not be to everyone’s liking.  Also, on that note, the acting is usually exaggerated and over-the-top, which may also not be to everyone’s liking.  And lastly, the sense of humor is silly, to the point where it may be annoying to some.  Still, if none of these gripes matters to you, then you’re in for a delighted surprise.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is first and foremost a Disney movie, where the good has its day and the bad comes and goes.  It is, of course, a sequel to the original 2010 film ALICE IN WONDERLAND, over which it improves upon the nature, structure, visuals, acting quality (slightly better), with a few aforementioned gripes that may not be to everyone’s liking but to those for who it is to their liking, I heartily recommend you use your time to see and enjoy ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.  The time will pass quickly, and you’ll most likely enjoy your time seeing this film.  I know it did, and I did too.

I’ll also mention where the films I review are located on, with links included, retail and online-wise, so you my readers can have a go-to or a quick link click to use right away or as soon as you can to enjoy what’s out there and on my Rankin Movies blog.

Disney:

movies.disney.com/alicethrough-the-lookingglass

Redbox:

http://www.redbox.com/movies/alicethrough-the-lookingglass-2016

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Through-Looking-Glass-Features/dp/B01G2LIL1A

or a Blu-Ray combo edition:

https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Through-Looking-Digital-Blu-ray/dp/B01EUBF5JK

 

Take care :)!

Rankin’ Movies

The Mechanic: Resurrection Review

the-mechanic-resurrection-movieTHE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION is an assured, tightly paced, enjoyable B-movie thriller that packs in a familiar punch from action star Jason Statham that his fans, action film junkies, and adults will find plenty to enjoy here.  The action is fast and brutal, the pace keeps the story going swiftly, and the enjoyment level is high for the audience the movie is intended for.

Starring the Stath, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, and Michelle Yeoh, THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION aims to entertain with its brutal action sequences and its simple but enjoyable story.  As the Mechanic, Jason Statham’s character Bishop returns from the dead from his “death” at the end of the 2011 MECHANIC film (which is a remake of a Charles Bronson film of the same name) to continue his path of peace, until he’s called out of his retirement to a rude awakening with Jessica Alba’s character Gina, a refugee schoolteacher who is a pawn in the game that Bishop’s former-friend-turned-nemesis, Crain, has a bone to pick with Bishop and with Gina as a hostage forces Bishop’s hand into assassinating three targets on Crain’s list, for mysterious purposes.  All nearly impossible tasks, considering the targets are high-profile bad guys who are either well-guarded or well-locked away.  Still, Bishop finds a way to make them look like “accidents”.  He’s the Mechanic, after all.

What follows is a fun, action-packed, smarter-than-you-think and very briskly paced action film that is tailor-made for Jason Statham fans and for action-film junkies ready to get their fix on with this robust and enjoyable action sequel.  I rate THE MECHANIC: RESURRECTION three and a half wrenches out of five, because that’s what I’m talking about.

Star Trek Beyond Review (Super-Sized, Yummy)

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STAR TREK: BEYOND is a stellar and well-rounded sequel to INTO DARKNESS and one of the best Star Trek movies yet, alongside 2009’s reboot and WRATH OF KHAN back in 1982.  Although I really don’t have any claim to give in terms of in-depth knowledge of Star Trek lore, I do know enough (a little more than the casual moviegoer) to warrant an honest opinion on my own terms, in my own words.

The third installment in the rebooted Star Trek film series, BEYOND is written by Mr. Scotty himself, Simon Pegg, and Doug Jung and directed by FAST AND FURIOUS series regular Justin Lin.  BEYOND is also produced by J.J. Abrams and long-time series producers and writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci.  This film has a very solid cast: Chris Pine returns as Captain James T. Kirk, as does Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock, Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura, Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy/Bones, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu, and R.I.P. Anton Yelchin as Chekov.  New and notable cast members are: Sofia Boutella as Jaylah and Idris Elba as the mysteriously menacing and intimidating Krall.

The story continues for the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, picking up five years into their long-term space voyage to explore the space frontier and after the events of INTO DARKNESS.  Kirk and Spock are leading the Enterprise very well, and the crew is happy and in relatively good spirits.  They grow wary of their journey, not unhappy yet not completely satiisfied either.  It’s to their good fortune that they come upon a massive space city that is Federation-owned.  While there, Kirk and the Enterprise crew unwind and discuss their journey while also future prospects of their star trek as well.  It’s not too soon later that a distress call of a desperate alien soul is heard and responded to by the U.S.S. Enterprise, only to find that something much bigger is at play, with evil at work as well…

If you haven’t already seen the film, to go any further would be to ruin some of the story twists and details, and I’m not one for that as you know.  So, I will go over the well-done aspects and moments of the film while also covering its weaknesses, which all films have regardless of opinion: because that’s the truth.

First off, the story is very good, as the organic flow of the tale rewards those who pay close attention to it and every moment of the film plays into the story and helps the story move forward at the break-neck pace that it does.  The acting, especially from Pine, Elba and Urban, and Pegg, is excellent and on-note with previous while also growing their characters in new and unexpected directions.  Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto as Bones and Spock are given more character moments than they’ve had, definitely together, as they have to move forward together to survive and use their smarts and wits to do what they need to do.  Boutella as Jaylah is a very good character whose unique characteristics is reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen-meets Hit-Girl, just with more wide-eyed wonder and way less R-rated language.

Idris Elba makes a menacing and complex villain out of Krall, whose mysterious past plays into who he is and his motivations to do what he villainously does is right up there with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan.  Just like he utilized as Shere Khan in THE JUNGLE BOOK, his booming baritone goes a long way with his BEYOND performance as well: an intense performance with scary make-up and strong-willed multi-faceted character motivation whose ultimate plan falls a little flat, but remains a formidable threat nonetheless throughout.

Some minor nitpicks for the BEYOND film: while the film overall is a very good Star Trek (first) installment and great action film in its own right with a strong story and excellent acting, the lasting effects of the events in BEYOND will resonate with viewers as it will with the film’s characters, the story is limited in scope compared to STAR TREK and INTO DARKNESS.  With that in mind, the story is focused on the single location for a good bit of time, as it needs to, but in doing so the stakes are not as high or impactful as the two previous STAR TREK films.  While not really a setback, it’s not exactly a big boost either.

So, what’s the ultimate verdict for STAR TREK: BEYOND?  In my own words and opinion for the film, I’d give it 4 stars out of 5 stars, and that your trek to the theater will be well worth your time and Earth credits :).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Trek Beyond and Suicide Squad Reviews Incoming!!

I’m very sorry for the absentee reviews that I’ve not put up, but believe me there will be more soon.  I’ve been seeing movies more regularly, it’s just that my free time is all but gone because of my new schedule.

So I’ll start making time for my reviews for you guys, my readers, by putting up more reviews for more movies that ya’ll have or would like to see.  Please feel free to send in requests for reviews and of course your thoughts and feelings about the movie being reviewed and all that good jazz.  Thanks for hanging in there and waiting for my reviews, believe me when I say I’ll be a more frequent presence and poster on my blog here at WordPress, Rankin’ Movies by Garrett Rankin!

Cheers and much love,

Garrett Rankin

Jungle Book: A Short Review

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Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is a faithful and amazingly appealing live-action and CGI blend of the 1967 animated Disney classic and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books from back in the late 1800’s.  With a well-rounded and pitch-perfect cast of Neel Sethi as Mowgli (the only live-action character in the film), Bill Murray as the lovable bear and friend Baloo, Ben Kingsley as the watchful panther mentor Bagheera,  Lupita Nyong’O as the loving wolf Raksha, Scarlett Johansson as the dangerous snake Kaa, Idris Elba as the fearsome tiger Shere Khan and Christopher Walken as King Louie and excellent direction from Jon Favreau solidify THE JUNGLE BOOK as the best live-action Disney fable…so far.

THE JUNGLE BOOK is a familiar and appealing story that pretty much everyone from many generations over know the story of, so I’ll skip the short story summaries I usually start my reviews with to give ya’ll, my readers, background as to what to expect in the film.  Instead of a summary, I’ll tell ya’ll straight out what to expect out of the adaptation, the quality of the film itself and everything I know of in it, and that if you haven’t seen THE JUNGLE BOOK, you really do HAVE to.  Especially for fans of Disney and all things Jungle Book (which means you may already have seen it).

First off, the CGI is so vivid in THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) that you’ll get lost in the story almost immediately from the very start.  The only live-actor is Mowgli, played to near-perfection by newcomer Neel Seethi, bringing to life his legendary and very human and relatable boy protagonist.  I can see now a lot of young boys looking up to Seethi’s take on Mowgli and seeing him as a role model.  Now that’s something to be happy about.  Still, Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba bring to vivid (and often-times roaring) life to their respective characters, where Murray’s Baloo brings the expected amount of humor and warmth while Kingsley’s Bagheera brings the amount of wisdom and love while Idris Elba’s fearsome and manipulative Shere Khan layers the menace upon every scene Khan is in, and the CGI is so good as to immerse every viewer into the almost-unreal jungle landscape and story of Mowgli deciding on how to find his place in the world, stay alive and out of the grips of Shere Khan, and to bond and learn from his friends and jungle family.

The other performances are great too, brief but necessary to move the story forward.  To hear Johansson’s Kaa give background to Mowgli’s past and why Khan wants Mowgli gone so badly shine through, and Walken’s King Louie’s motivations for ruling the jungle are imposing with his size and strength in monkey numbers enhancing the possible threat he may have against Mowgli.

Anyhow, THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is must-see cinema and a treat for all ages, except for the littlest wolf cubs.  There quite a few sequences of scary action and peril, just like the PG rating states.  Still, Disney and director Jon Favreau hit a home run with THE JUNGLE BOOK, and I hope that Disney and Emma Watson’s BEAUTY IN THE BEAST is just as good!

 

Dragon Blade: A Review

Dragon Blade

 

DRAGON BLADE is a unique blockbuster with a strong concept, action-packed narrative, and great performances.  A Chinese-American production, DRAGON BLADE knows how to rope viewers in with a colorful cast of Jackie Chan as a Silk Road peace-keeper/warrior Huo An, John Cusack’s Lucius and Adrien Brody’s corrupt Tiberius as two Roman generals/brothers on opposite sides of the forthcoming battle, and many more great actors who I’ve seen before in other Chinese productions (but don’t know who they are); as well as the promise of epic battle scenes and spectacle, which DRAGON BLADE delivers on quite often.

The stunning, simple, moving and action-packed story starts a little slow, with Jackie Chan’s Huo An and his fellow Silk Road peace-keeping warriors introduced breaking up a skirmish on their beloved Silk Road which he is charged with protecting, and is defected through deceitful means to Eagle Gate.  This is where the defected Silk Road warriors come face-to-face with another band of soldiers, a Roman battalion led by General Lucius (Cusack)  who they at first stand off with in self-defense, but eventually see that they are on common ground and tell their respective stories to one another.  Both Huo An and Lucius were banished by deceit, with Lucius’s case being the more severe: his treacherous older brother Tiberius (Brody) blinded Lucius’s son and rightful heir to the Roman Emperor’s title.  Now Lucius is on the run and seeking help for fighting Tiberius, who is in hot pursuit of his brother.

That’s the setup of the story, with many battle scenes punctuating the narrative and a somewhat hokey but still necessary sequence of the Romans and Chinese soldiers helping restore Eagle Gate before an impending punishment comes from their superiors (those in charge of the Eagle Gate).  The following sequence is key to the story, as both Huo An and Lucius’s son sing cultural songs of unity, peace, and loyalty to their homelands.

Jackie Chan is in great form as the character he usually plays, the bumbling yet humble and strong-willed hero who stands his ground and is an excellent fighter.  John Cusack brings gravity and a sense of loss and hope to his character Lucius, whose recent grievance he hopes to right and restore, to bring the fight to his brother…Adrien Brody as Tiberius brings a forcefully malicious and brutally motivated approach to his corrupt character, whose treachery and schemes knows no bounds as does his surprising prowess in battle.

Speaking of battle, the epic and bloody battle scenes deliver the action goods.  Like stated above, the action is top-notch and director Daniel Lee fills the screen with each side fighting in different factions and very different yet engaging tactics and counter-tactics to make the fight choreography and execution that much more enjoyable and admirable.

Now don’t get me wrong, DRAGON BLADE isn’t flawless since the film also has a number of flaws.  The director’s pace in the beginning portion is very slow, even for character development and establishment’s sake.  The acting is top-notch from the main actors, but some of the supporting actors don’t fare as well.  And while the camerawork throughout the film is assured and well-executed, the CGI is somewhat spotty (good in spots, not-as-good in others).

Moving forward, DRAGON BLADE is an especially good martial arts epic with (mostly) great casting choices and acting, an action-packed and simply epic and moving narrative that promotes harmony and unity among peoples and at the same time fight for the right to attain peace.  With a slow beginning pace, spotty acting and CGI (here and there) holds DRAGON BLADE back from being a very memorable action epic (on par with Jon Woo’s RED CLIFF, which is a masterpiece).  Instead, DRAGON BLADE is only very good and not as memorable as it could have been.

 

 

 

RISEN Review

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RISEN is a prime example of how to make an effective Christian film that combines top-notch filmmaking with ace storytelling that shows growth and transformation in discovering the truth about Jesus Christ, from an initially imposing skeptic’s point of view.  This film is a murder mystery, a Biblical drama, a coming-of-faith journey, and a thriller as well.  One that culminates in the truth of what the Bible represents and who Jesus, or should I say, Yeshua, is to US all.

RISEN is a film from Affirm Films and Columbia Pictures, made by San Antonio native and director Kevin Reynolds.  He is the director of 2002’s THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, 2006’s TRISTAN AND ISOLDE and 2012’s HATFIELD AND MCCOY’S mini-series, and he imbues this film’s story of Clavius (Joseph Fiennes in a riveting and emotional performance), an imposing yet loyal Roman Tribune who oversees the crucifixion, death, and sealing of the “King of the Jews”‘s tomb, with visual splendor and plenty of heart and soul.

His consort Lucius (Tom Felton, aka Draco Malfoy, performing against type) is his second-in-command, and his boss is none other than Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth, Colin Firth’s Dad).  Clavius and Pilate are on initially friendly terms, as Clavius heeds every command of Pilate’s up until the news breaks of the dead King of the Jews’ sealed tomb miraculously opened and the body of the “Jew King”, or Yeshua, gone…

With the Roman clergy stunned yet heeding the prophecy set forth by the King’s disciples (about how Yeshua would rise again on the third day), Pilate in a fury and a time limit set before the Emperor arrives in Judea, he sends Clavius out to not just search and find the body of the “Jew King”, but to find the truth of how and why the tomb and body came to be as they are in the first place.  So out Clavius goes, and what he finds and learns will change his life and also the course of history in the process…

The cast is stunning and authentic, especially Cliff Curtis as Yeshua.  What a performance.  Joseph Fiennes as the main character Clavius deserves praise too, for the growth and transformation his character undergoes throughout the course of the film is tremendous and deeply moving.  Director Kevin Reynolds, as stated above, imbues the film with visual splendor and plenty of heart and soul.  RISEN is an emotional film, but also a beautiful one too.

RISEN is an eye-opening blend of historical fiction (the character Clavius, primarily) and truthful, Bible-based fact (Jesus’s death and resurrection) where the fiction doesn’t get in the way of the Biblical truth.  Instead, RISEN meets and exceeds expectations of Biblical accuracy and tells a bold and moving story about one man’s coming-of-faith journey, from the darkness to God’s light.  (That’s all I can say about what happens, because I’m not one to spoil movies, especially for my readers and loved ones).  Where the story of Clavius is historical fiction, the story of Jesus Christ is Bible-based truth and fact.  Blended together makes RISEN an inspiring Christian film for current and future believers in Christ and spiritually rewarding for those who know the story front and back.

I know I’m still learning in my walk with Jesus, and this film RISEN is a big boost on my journey forward as well.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Review

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The 2nd Maze Runner, with the subheading of THE SCORCH TRIALS, is a strong and focused sequel that delivers the best aspects of the first film while expanding the scope of not just the locales, but also that of the story.  I still need to read the books, so please understand I’m reviewing the second Maze Runner only having seen the first film as the basis for my critique.

Dylan O’Brien (of Teen Wolf) reprises his role as Thomas, the leader of the surviving members of The Maze, nicknamed “The Gladers”, from the first film.  The story and the film picks up immediately from the ending of the first Maze Runner.  Teresa, Newt, Minho, Frypan, Winston, and Thomas are picked up by helicopters that will take them to a safe haven and away from WCKD, the devious company that put The Gladers in the Maze initially.  Yet WCKD prove themselves to be resourceful, so Thomas and The Gladers are on the run once more.  With Cranks an ever present threat in the Scorch (pretty much zombies in the expanse of land outside the walls of the Maze and the compound) plus the desert-like heat and WCKD and their hunter Janson (Aiden Gillen “Littlefinger” from Game of Thrones) hot on their tails, The Gladers look and run/walk to find the resistance in the faraway mountains beyond the Scorch.

That’s the story’s setup, with plenty of twists, turns, shocks, and surprises along the way.  The less said about them the better, for your sake of enjoying them (if this film is your cup of tea).

The mysteries of the big whodunnit/quagmire of the series, who Thomas and Teresa are, and the why of WCKD’s pursuit is answered too, gradually as the layers of the mystery onion are removed (lol).  Plus there are plenty of action and chase sequences in THE SCORCH TRIALS, sure to please fans of the first film and of the books.  I still need to see how accurate the second book is to this second installment, but as far as I can tell the story that is told is cohesive and quite surprising to boot.

The acting is requisitely solid, though not as excellent as the now-wrapped YA novel-to-blockbuster-juggernaut THE HUNGER GAMES series.  Aiden Gillen is always excellent as the villain, and that’s no different here.  Patiricia Clarkson as Ava Paige, the mastermind of WCKD, is always great as well.  The Gladers all turn in solid and moving performances, especially with the physicality they bring to their roles.

THE SCORCH TRIALS is a solid second installment that forgoes many a YA adaptation sequel stumbles by having a simple but smart story, an expanded and epic scope and score, and very good performances.  Yet, at the same time the dialogue is sometimes clunky/wooden and more of a means to an end (point A-to-B exposition) type of deal than sounding like realistic conversation between or with real people.

With that aside, THE SCORCH TRIALS is still a solid continuation of The Maze Runner trilogy of films, with the finale set up to release for this fall.  Here’s hoping that dialogue can get better, and that the third film ends on a high note (or however the story needs to).